Ryan Su, the founding director of The Ryan Foundation, is a lawyer based in Singapore and pursuing his PhD in Art Law. Adrian Chan, meanwhile, is a director at The Ryan Foundation. Ryan Su and Adrian Chan started collecting art when they were living in the UK and France. Art for them has become more than “art”. Whenever there is an opportunity, they bring in overseas artists for exhibitions in Singapore, and vice versa with Singaporean artists. They have also established good relationships with the artists, who seek Su’s legal advice from contractual to commissioning and copyright issues. Ryan Su and Adrian Chan recommend a strategy they often use — look at the neglected parts of an established artist’s oeuvre, in time to come, prices of these “undervalued” works are likely to rise too.
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When did your passion for art collecting start?
Ryan Su (RS): I was studying Art Law in the UK. One of my professors was an art lawyer and sometimes the artists he helped paid him in artworks because they had limited resources. He amassed very eclectic art collections this way. I thought practising Art Law was not only interesting but also meaningful as you are helping artists who often have weaker bargaining power. Along the way, I got drawn into collecting art, when all I had set out to do was to learn about the law relating to Art and Cultural Property.
What is the theme of your collection?
RS: We started collecting when we were living abroad so majority of the collection is of Western. We feel there is a lack of representation of Western artists in Singapore. This should not be the case as Singapore is a cosmopolitan city. It is very difficult but not impossible to see a Western art show curated by one of Singapore’s arts institutions. As such, we hope to bring Western art and artists to the public, and provide some diversity to Singapore’s art offerings and artistic landscape. One must also not forget, many Southeast Asian artists are influenced by what’s going on in the West, and this part of the narrative should not be removed from the Southeast Asian artistic discourse.
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Adrian Chan (AC): Initially, we were very attracted to abstract art, especially from the abstract expressionist movement in New York. It was not only the art product we were drawn to but also the thought process behind it. We have always considered collecting an intellectual exercise and researching on art and collecting is indeed very stimulating! A large number of works in the collection revolve around nature. We have always loved nature, especially plants and birds, and the works in the collection, both abstract and figurative, usually feature natural elements or depictions. In addition to art, we own a collection of tropical parrots too.
Do you travel to buy art?
AC: We travel to see art. The Art Basel Fairs are always good — Hong Kong, Basel and Miami. There are other art fairs during these periods in the respective cities. In Singapore, there is Art Stage Singapore, which is a fantastic platform for international and Southeast Asian art. Also check out Bangkok, Chiangmai, Jakarta, Shanghai and Yogyakarta.
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